Marine Major Jose Anzaldua spent 1,160 days as a POW during the Vietnam War. This month Sig Sauer honored him with a special 1911.
Anzaldua, a Texan who volunteered for service with the clear understanding he would be headed to Vietnam as an enlisted Marine, was captured in South Vietnam on Jan. 23, 1970, and was held as a prisoner of war in everything from jungle camps to the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” until his eventual release on March 27, 1973.
In the above feature from Sig, Anzaldua recounts how– just 11 days before he was supposed to rotate home– he and a Vietnamese Kit Carson Scout were captured after he was surrounded and called down fire on his position that, in the end, was never carried out, a twist of fate that saved his life.
“That was the way it was supposed to be,” said Anzaldua, explaining that, after firing the last round in his issued M1911 handgun, he dropped red smoke at his feet during the 16-hour firefight, expecting circling gunships to kill him. “This story was to have ended that way, but it didn’t.”
After capture, Anzaldua said the scout he was captured with was summarily executed while the Marine went on to spend the next three years as a prisoner, often in hellish situations.
“Just terrible, terrible conditions,” he said.
Returning home, Anzaldua remained in the Marines, eventually retiring in 1992 as a major. His family, in honor of his service, contacted Sig last year in an effort to create a firearm to commemorate his experience.
These include a Prisoner of War ribbon on the right of the slide and the Vietnam Service ribbon on the left, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and “Major Jose Anzaldua” engravings. (Photo: Sig Sauer)
A special service-style holster made by DeSantis for Anzaldua was part of the presentation.
The top slide engraving includes engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major’s rank at the time of retirement, a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where then Corporal Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase “You Are Not Forgotten” taken from the POW-MIA flag.
“On National POW-MIA Day on September 20th, and every day, we honor those whom have served and sacrificed for the United States of America in the defense of freedom,” noted Sig in a press release.
According to the Department of Defense’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), over 81,000 unaccounted for Americans are still listed among the lost in 20th Century conflicts, including 1,587 from the Vietnam war. You can search the list of the Missing, here.